- - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

As Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s face it: More than a few of us have this pressing question nipping at our proverbial heels, if not our out-of-shape heartstrings. Will taking a vacation make me happy? 

According to a mix of studies, the happiness numbers say it will.

An Expedia Pleasure Index conducted by Harris Interactive sought to examine the link between vacations and happiness. What the survey revealed, not surprisingly: Americans report that vacations make them happier than their marriages, happier than their religions, happier than weddings and birthdays and even happier than spending time with their cats (but consumers who have never taken a vacation are more likely to say that cats make them happier).

And do romantic vacations pencil out to better sex? You betcha!

Among vacationers who take a vacation in a typical year with their spouse or partner, “pleasure” is the word: 88% report being at least somewhat likely to be intimate. On the whole, nearly 40% of Americans who take any vacation in a typical year and have a spouse or partner report being “somewhat to much more likely” to be intimate while on vacation. Those in the survey who had taken a vacation within the past year, or even within the past four years, seemed to be more likely to be satisfied with their love life than those who had not gone on a vacation in five years or more.

A survey by Travelocity in Canada found some 90% of the women questioned would love to experience a surprise vacation arranged by their significant other this Valentine’s Day. Almost half the women said they prefer a stroll, arm in arm, while they are discovering a new place with their partner. A quarter chose a one-on-one candlelit dinner and 20 per cent of the women surveyed said they would most want a beach vacation that doesn’t break the bank.

AARP Travel, a resource for America’s 76 million baby boomers who spend over $120 billion annually in leisure travel, found that those 45+ who took a romantic getaway in the last two years found it to be a valuable way to reconnect and simply enjoy time with a significant other. However, only 15% of those surveyed had actually gone on a romantic getaway in the past 24 months.

The 15% who did get a romantic getaway claimed that taking a trip with their significant other is more about time alone together or sharing a special experience, than about sex. Research also found that once you go on a romantic getaway, you’re more inclined to book another trip in the near future; of those who went on a romantic getaway, an overwhelming 98% liked it and 95% said they would do it again within a year.

Key factors that make a getaway romantic include:
Quality time together
Accommodations
Destination
Sharing activities
Anticipation of the trip

While a variety of things can set the mood for romance, spending time together in a beautiful place appears to be the winning formula for respondents. Some of the popular aspects of recent Romantic Getaways included:
72% of domestic romantic travelers drove to their destination
36% of respondents traveled to a city, while 29% went
to a beach
34% made the getaway a weekend trip
The majority chose destinations more than 100 miles away from
the couple’s home

Married couples are more likely to be inspired to take a romantic getaway to celebrate an anniversary or other milestone event. However, the research also revealed some factors that inhibit couples from taking a romantic trip, including day-to-day commitments (work, personal or responsibilities with kids) and cost.

Most romantic trips usually last less than a week and have an average cost of $2,353, the majority of which is spent on accommodations. Research shows the top romantic accommodations include:
Hotels (51%)
Resorts (26%)
Bed and breakfast (8%)
Cruise cabins (7%)

The majority of romantic getaways occur within the U.S. with travelers gravitating toward “big cities” and popular “entertainment” locations, as opposed to one specific location. Among those who decide to travel abroad, the top destinations include:
Caribbean/South America (63%)
Europe (30%)
Mexico (22%)

Whether their Romantic Getaway occurred in the past two years or is being planned for next year, couples’ attitudes and behaviors toward the trip are the same:
- The accommodations are very important to setting the mood. It’s
about the property overall and a beautiful view

- Some (40%) will bring special clothing and/or wine and
champagne to help set the mood

- The majority (75%) says work is “off limits” on their trip and electronics are frequently cited as off-limits

So, what not to do? Stay home, eat ice cream and catch up on reruns of “The Bachelor.” While Valentine’s Day weekend (the day falls on a Saturday this year) will be a very popular time to check out those romantic B&Bs and Wine Country cottages, the deals are out there, and February, with its deep freeze and gray skies, is the right time — no matter what days you choose — to escape to warmer climes.

Here are some samples of romantic vacation packages that will turn up the heat and melt hearts this season.

Romance on the Ranch at Dos Brisas
Swap flowers and chocolate for carriage rides and fireside dining at a luxury Relais & Châteaux ranch resort located in the eastern foothills of the Texas Hill Country. Available through Dec. 30, The Inn at Dos Brisas has a two-night Romance on the Ranch package that starts at $3,468 per person, based on double occupancy, and includes:
Accommodations in a Spanish-style 1795-sq.-ft. hacienda, complete with private heated plunge pool
Horse-drawn carriage ride for two
60-minute couples massage
Dinner on both evenings, one in The Inn’s five-star restaurant
including wine pairings, and a private in-hacienda dinner with bottle of wine
Daily lunch and breakfast
Additional treats such as fireside s’mores, wine and cheese,
or rose petal and sweet treat turndown service can be arranged

Couples also have unlimited access to resort activities and experiences including cooking and baking classes, organic farm tours, stargazing, trail rides on horseback, fishing, clay shooting, hayrides, tennis, swimming, cycling, basketball, yoga, archery and a “birthplace of Texas” geocatching tour. Price does not include taxes or service charges.

Contact: (979) 277-7750. www.dosbrisas.com
 
Candlelight and Chocolate at the Viceroy Zihuatanejo
Love and chocolate make great bedfellows at the beachside Viceroy Zihuatanejo in Mexico. This cliffside luxury hotel on Mexico’s Pacific Coast celebrates Valentine’s Day weekend with such options as a Chocolate Dinner, an evening together in a private beach cabana, a Chocolate Degustation and a Couples Experience at the spa.
 
Valentine’s Day “Chocolate Dinner” at La Marea: The four-course dinner, served in the chic resort’s open-air restaurant on the sand, features chocolate in each course, welcome cocktail and live saxophone music. The dinner is $85 per person.
 
Valentine’s Day Dinner in a Private Beach Cabana: The private cabana on Viceroy Zihuatanejo’s beautiful La Ropa Beach comes with a special four-course menu and welcome drinks. $270 per couple.
 
“Sense of the Night” Lounge & Chocolate Degustation: A romantic open-air lounge on the sand is paired with a tantalizing Chocolate Degustation of passionate treats including white and dark chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate macaroons, chocolate bonbons, chocolate truffles, and chocolate and passion fruit mousse. $20 per person.
 
Couples Experience at the Spa: Try this 80-minute, sensual “Sea of Love” experience for two. It combines a full-body exfoliation with pure sea salts harvested around the globe and a massage with aphrodisiac essential oils, plus a take-home spa gift. $200 per couple.

Rooms for that weekend at Viceroy Zihuatanejo start at $525 per night. Alaska Airlines offers regular flights to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo from U.S. gateways.

Contact: (866) 905-9560
. www.viceroyzihuatanejo.com

Cozy in the Snow at Twin Farms in Vermont
Winter is a wonderful time to visit the Green Mountains of Vermont and curl up by the fire on a farm once owned by Nobel laureate and author Sinclair Lewis. Find Twin Farms near Woodstock, Vermont, and find surroundings with touches by famous interior designers and art by some of today’s most-renowned masters of painting and sculpture. Accommodations are expansive on this 300-acre spread of cross-country trails, lakes and even some mini-downhill ski opportunities. Of course, Killington and Okemo are just up the road. This Relais & Châteaux resort is fully inclusive and focused on service to the few guests who may be visiting and staying in the 20 cottages and mini-manses dotting the property.

A Romantic Escape package allows guests to reserve a mid-week stay for three evenings and enjoy a free fourth night on the farm. Rates run around $1,500 per night.

Contact:
 Twin Farms, 
Barnard, Vermont. 

(800) 894-6327

. www.TwinFarms.com

A Little Light Romance and a Touch of Maui
Maui is at the ready for romancers eager to trade snowflakes for sea spray and a memorable stay at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
A romantic Room & Breakfast in Paradise Package features deluxe accommodations and a tropical buffet breakfast for two for $304 per night.
The Wailea resort’s oceanfront setting pans the white sands and endless blue waters from the infinity edge pool. The property has a Mandara Spa and offers a menu of intimate couple’s massage treatments for those who want to explore deeper relaxation.
Accommodations include flat-panel TVs, mini refrigerators, coffee makers, spacious bathtubs and 24-hour room service.
Contact: 
(800) 228-9290 and use promotional code P74. www.Marriott.com/wailea

Lark Gould reports on travel and the travel industry from Los Angeles. She blogs at Larkslist.com and covers trends on Travel-Intel.com.


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